Debate on National Park’s ageing residents

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LIVING in the picturesque North York Moors National Park is not the idyll it may sometimes appear for the older generation, warnings have been made, as the issue of dealing with an ageing population comes under the spotlight.

Andy Wilson, chief executive, of the North York Moors National Park Authority, has sparked a debate about how to offer support to its ageing population and is urging communities to get involved in the debate.

In a newsletter he warns that figures for the national park show increases for all population groups over the age of 60 and he adds: “We have a significant number of over 90-year-olds.”

Now, the park authority is to investigate the issue of support for older residents and how community action can help, through its four parish forums which cover the giant national park.

Mr Wilson, writing in the new edition of Moors Messenger says: “Now, I’m no expert in social policy, but I can see that for remote rural areas such as a National Park, caring for older people and ensuring fulfilling and supported lives has extra demands.

“I guess that despite the glory of the North York Moors and the joy of life, as the cold winters grip, childhood friends move on and loneliness bites, the beauty of the countryside is less of a palliative. Problems of transport, fuel costs and access to health facilities grow bigger,” Mr Wilson added.

North Yorkshire as a whole has a large number of older people living in the county with an estimated 20.3 per cent of the population of the county aged 65 or over in 2010, compared with a national average of 16.5 per cent.

Rural Action Yorkshire has announced plans to set up Good Neighbour schemes to offer practical support to people living in rural areas across North Yorkshire. The schemes, will be run by volunteers, and would offer things like helping with household tasks, picking up prescriptions, giving a lift to the shops or the doctors or simply providing some company.

Leah Swain, chief officer of Rural Action Yorkshire said: “In twenty years time, one third of the population in North Yorkshire will be over 65 - that is one in three people - and there is going to be a heavy strain on our healthcare system.

“We hope the scheme will alleviate some of the strain on public services, help people to stay in their own homes for longer, feel part of their community and know they have people close by that they can turn to when they need some help.”

Mr Wilson, writing in Moors Messenger, in response to the issue of an ageing population, says the Helmsley-based park authority has tried to consider the needs of the older generation when considering housing projects.

He says it supported the building of Esk Moors Lodge, which provides one and two bedroom apartments for rent. In addition, says Mr Wilson, bungalows have also been included in the two large residential schemes planned for Helmsley.

Mr Wilson is urging parish councillors and residents to take part in the debate and give their thoughts on the issue by attending forum meetings. They are being held at Hutton-le-Hole Village Hall, on Thursday July 9, at Chop Gate Village Hall on Wednesday July 15, at Sneaton Village Hall, on Thursday July 16, and at Sunnyfield House, Guisborough, on Tuesday July 7.